Council under fire for giving money to music festival

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SPENDING taxpayers’ money on Gosport’s Waterfront Festival is irresponsible, a councillor has said.

Gosport Borough Council has agreed to step in and help the group running this year’s festival with a £42,500 grant.

It will also provide around £2,300 in printing services, £250 in staff costs and will waive the £3,780 fee for the hiring of Walpole Park.

The measures were approved at a meeting of the council’s policy and organisation board last week.

But Lib Dem Cllr Rob Hylands, the only councillor on the board who voted against the move, has criticised the council for giving away money at a time of financial cuts.

He said: ‘I’m in favour of festivals and other events that bring people and trade to Gosport.

‘But we were told this festival was to be a commercial venture, run on sponsorship, concessions and a small entry fee and it would not cost the ratepayer a penny.

‘Now, on top of waiving the fee for the hire of the ground, we are being asked to pay for the publicity and for some officer involvement.

‘I’m not against allowing a temporary grant to the organisers to help them with cash flow difficulties.

‘What I am against is, in the current climate of cuts and savings, any money simply being given away.

‘This council should be very careful about what it spends and how it spends it and to do anything else is irresponsible.’

The three-day festival runs from August 26 at Walpole Park but organisers need use of the land for nine days to allow for setting up.

This would usually cost £3,780.

The council will foot the bill for printing and publicity services towards the festival at a cost of around £2,300.

During the event, the council’s offices will be used as a holding area for the main acts, at a cost of £250 for staff.

Tory council leader Cllr Mark Hook said: ‘I can’t believe the Liberal Democrats do not support the waiving of the fee for the use of community events.

‘It is not a commercial event.

‘This is a community event, organised by members of the community who make no charge for their time or work they put in.

‘Should there be any profit from the festival, that will be held over for the festival next year.

‘Cllr Hylands has failed to grasp the difference between a commercial event and a community event.

‘At the end of the day it’s a community event for the community. You either support it or you don’t.’

The council voted earlier this year to ditch funding for the festival as part of cost-cutting measures.

A group of residents, councillors and businesses then took on the running of the event to keep it going through private sponsorship.

As an unofficial organisation, the group has no bank account and asked the council to provide them with a temporary grant to help with cash flow and pay the festival’s initial costs.

The council agreed to pay invoices on behalf of the group and will then receive all income and sponsorship money.